Mental health awareness is a topic that is incredibly close to me. Not only because I was diagnosed with ADHD, but because I also know how hurtful and damaging stigma can be to a person.
Even when someone has the courage to ask for help, people are not very supportive. They see mental illness as either a punchline in a joke or an excuse, rather than seeing mental illnesses for the serious and very complex conditions that they actually are.
Here are a few simple things that we can all do to make mental health stigma a little less of an issue for others.
1. Remember that your language is more than just your words.
Language for me is more than words. How many people have seen memes depicting a child in the corner and an adult holding a belt with the phrase, “This was my ADHD medication”?
The amount of toxic and inaccurate things that you can find online is truly endless. Which is why we need to be mindful about not only the things we say, but also what we post, follow, and like.
Remember that saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me?”
Words and phrases actually do hurt, and they also have long term psychological effects on a person.
2. Educate yourself and learn from your biases instead of confirming your biases.
There is almost as much misinformation as there is actual information on mental illness. This is especially true for social media and the media in general. Which is why it is important to get our information from the people who are qualified to be giving us that information.
So remember, just because someone posts David Wolfe memes and says things such as ”woke” and “big pharma” doesn’t mean that they are an expert.
3. Be kind and show a little empathy.
Being kind can be life-changing to a person. The other day when I got a coffee, a girl was standing by the drive thru asking for change. Since I never have change, I decided to buy her a meal and a gift card. She was so happy she started to cry because she lost everything and had no support.
Remember that you have no idea what metaphorical demons a person has fought or is currently fighting in there life. Which is why it is so important that we see things from the perspective of other people, not just through our own personal stereotypes. It truly can change a person’s life.
4. Talk about it, and when someone opens up about their struggles, be supportive.
My biggest regret in my life is not asking a friend who passed away five years ago one more time if they were okay
Don’t let that happen to you, because I can tell you from firsthand experience that it doesn’t feel very good and the pain doesn’t go away.
5. Remember: if you feel you need support in any way whatsoever, get the support that you need.
Organizations such as the CMHA (Canadian Mental Health Association) and NAMI (National Alliance of Mental Illness) are incredible resources. The CMHA has an amazing peer support program that is not only incredibly helpful but free.
These types of organizations offer other types of support as well, such as classes and support groups and other valuable services that are incredibly helpful.
Also, remember If you feel alone, there is always a person who cares. Don’t stop looking for that person till you find them. I know that when you feel worthless or when you feel you have nothing, it can be a really dark and lonely place. I was there and isn’t a very fun place to be in, but there’s hope.